A venomous snake named after a mythological goddess, an orchid that looks like a muppet, a tree frog that looks like moss and a tree-climbing lizard that changes color are among hundreds of new species that have recently been discovered across Asia. But according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund, many of the 380 new species are already at risk of extinction.
In 2021 and 2022 all species were found in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia – which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. With thousands of species of flora and fauna to WWF.
A new report by the group released Monday details the discovery of 290 new species of plants, 19 fish, 24 amphibians, 46 reptiles and one mammal from the area. But while the new species found was described as “significant” by WWF, the group also issued a warning for many.
Tylototriton thiorum, otherwise known as the Thai crocodile newt, for example, is known to inhabit an area in Vietnam and is already considered an endangered species. WWF says habitat loss is being caused by the expansion of farming and logging in areas where the newt is known to live, as well as communities harvesting the animal to treat stomachaches and parasitic infections.
Nguyen Thien/TAO via World Wildlife Fund
Vietnam is also home to the newly identified Theloderma khoei, a frog whose colors and patterns look like it is covered in moss like a camouflage. But with reports that road construction and illegal logging threaten the forests where it lives, researchers believe it should be considered endangered.
And it’s not just animals that are under threat. Nepenthes bracteosa and Nepenthes hirtella, two new species of pitcher plants, are “classified as critically endangered,” WWF said in its report. Both plants are only found “on a mountaintop” in southern Thailand, meaning “any significant disturbance or degradation to their habitat could put them at risk of extinction.”
Keouudone Souvannakhoummane/World Wildlife Fund
Cambodia’s Dendrobium fuscifaucium – a miniature orchid that resembles a Muppet singing “Mah Na Mah Na” – was not listed as particularly endangered in the report, but the agency described it as an “unusual find” that researchers are struggling to find. In the wild they stumbled upon the species from a nursery collection, whose owner said they bought it from a local wild plant dealer who said they had found it in the wild.
“The discovery of this new species only underscores the importance of protecting these delicate plants,” the report said.
Truong Nguyen of the Vietnam Academy of Sciences said the plight of this newly dubbed species shows the region is facing “enormous pressure” from both economic development and human population growth. These factors, he said in a statement on the report, “drive deforestation, pollution and overexploitation of natural resources due to the effects of climate change.”
“More concerted, science-based and urgent efforts are needed to rapidly restore biodiversity loss in the region,” he wrote. “Using the critical evidence base established by scientists, we must all immediately invest time and resources in the best ways to conserve known and as-yet-unknown species.”